Hours after Denver instituted stricter public health orders, Arapahoe and Adams counties announced that they would limit gatherings and implement other restrictions in a bid to stunt the spread of the coronavirus.

The new orders, which will expire Nov. 1, come as the counties are dealing with a spike in the virus that could force stronger restrictions from the state. Under the new Adams County order, no spectators will be allowed at high school sporting events; no spectators will be allowed at adult recreational and league sports; outdoor youth sporting events will be limited to 25 people per field; no more than five individuals are allowed to gather indoors, and outdoor groups are capped at 10; and alcohol sales must stop at 10 p.m.

In Arapahoe County, the order there will make last-call 11 p.m. instead of midnight at bars and restaurants; limit personal gatherings of friends, family and neighbors to 10 instead of 25; and encourage "nonessential, office-based" employees to work remotely. Both orders go into effect Friday night.

In a news release, officials said the order was prompted by the high rate of spread within the county, which threatens to trigger tighter restrictions -- even more stringent than the new order -- from the state. Contact tracing has indicated that "many people who have tested positive for COVID-19 attended private gatherings during their time of likely exposure."

The state had previously limited the time period when alcohol to be sold, which had a positive effect on slowing spread. The county has also seen an increase of outbreaks within businesses.

“I know it gets old and that everyone has COVID fatigue, but there is strong reason to believe that infection could further spread and hospitalizations increase as we move further into the fall and winter," Tri-County Health Department executive director John M. Douglas, Jr. said in the announcement.

"There will be light at the end of the tunnel as new vaccines become available, and we just cannot let our guard down yet.” 

The positivity rate within Arapahoe is double what it was two weeks ago, the county said, and testing of waste water "shows that these increases will continue at least into next week before they level off." The spread within Adams County is even more severe.

Many current metrics within Arapahoe and Adams place the two counties into the state's Safer at Home Level 3, below the county's current place in level one. 

Should it fall to level two, the county would be encouraged to offer hybrid options to schools, and gatherings in various locations and settings would be limited. Adams County, which is already at level two, is at risk of dropping to level three, which would encourage remote learning, would close bars and gyms and further limit gatherings.

A spokesman for the Tri-County Health Department said Douglas County will not be instituting new health orders; the spread of the virus there is not as severe as in its two sister counties. All three submitted plans to the state in recent days that outlined how officials there would slow the spread of the virus.

“No one wants to see our communities and economy return to the widespread shutdowns we had this past spring,” Nancy N. Sharpe, the chair of the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement. “If we implement these mitigation measures now, we may be able to reverse these trends. It’s up to everyone to continue to do their part to stop the spread of the virus.”

“We are counting on our residents to do their part in keeping each other healthy and safe," Adams County commission chair Emma Pinter said in a statement. "This extra effort should help reduce our cases, which will keep our schools and businesses open. It’s extremely challenging right now for everyone, but we must continue to wear masks, and refrain from gatherings large and small. To remain vigilant in the short term will benefit us all in the long run.”

Earlier in the day Friday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced tighter restrictions in the city. Face coverings will now be required in outdoor settings, and gatherings of unrelated people would be capped at five people, rather than 10.